Skip to main content

Heart disease is the no. 1 killer of men: 7 simple ways you can prevent it

Your guide to heart disease prevention

We all know about the dangers of heart disease — according to the CDC, it’s the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most ethnic and racial groups (so, basically, it’s the leading cause of death for pretty much everyone). In the U.S., one person dies every 34 seconds from cardiovascular disease. And while you might think this is something you don’t have to worry about until you’re older, the statistics say otherwise. In men, in particular, cardiovascular disease develops at a younger age than it does in women, and men are twice as likely to have heart attacks.

But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around waiting for heart disease to happen to you. There are steps you can take for a healthier life.

What is heart disease?

Man smoking.

The heart is a powerful muscle that helps pump blood around the body. However, in heart disease, this action is restricted by the build-up of fatty deposits in the artery walls. The arteries are the channels blood uses to travel to all body parts, and these need to be kept clear for optimum circulation.

The build-up of fatty substances is called atherosclerosis, which can be caused by high-fat diets, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels can also increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease over time.

How does heart disease affect men?

Man making alcoholic drink.

It is not clear why men get heart disease more than women, but it is thought that males are less likely to exercise and eat healthily than their female counterparts. Men also tend to drink and smoke more and visit the doctor less.

Interestingly, another primary reason for the higher prevalence of heart disease in men is that they are more likely to have more stressful jobs but less likely to be able to cope as well with extra stress than women.

This is why heart disease is the leading cause of death in men in the United States. In 2021 alone, it is thought that heart disease claimed the lives of 382,776 men. 

Death can be sudden and come with no warning signs, so much so that half of the males that die of heart disease do not show any of the classic symptoms before death. If symptoms are present, then they usually restrict what individuals can do activity-wise because of breathlessness and pain.

What are signs you may have heart disease?

A tired man with towel sitting on a bench in a gym.

Classic signs of heart disease include chest pain which is sometimes referred to as angina, dizziness, nausea, feeling faint, heart attack, heart failure, and arrhythmia, which is also known as heart palpitations.

If any of these symptoms are present, then the men affected should see a doctor promptly for further tests to confirm the presence of heart disease. CT scans, blood tests, and coronary angiography are just a few of the methods used to diagnose the existence of this disease.

7 preventative measures you can take

A man sleeps on a set of My Sheets Rock regulator bed sheets.
My Sheets Rock

1. Lower your blood pressure

High blood pressure is often symptomless, so it is essential to get regular blood pressure checks. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart disease, aortic aneurysms, and heart attacks. In addition, high blood pressure places extra strain on vital organs such as the kidneys and the heart, so it is important to make lifestyle changes that can bring readings back to normal levels.

Exercise and a low-fat, low-sodium diet can help drop blood pressure to healthier levels. Losing weight by eating low-calorie healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and reducing alcohol consumption and smoking is also a step in the right direction. Blood pressure-lowering medication is an option for severe cases.

2. Keep cholesterol levels in check

High cholesterol can run in families, but high-fat diets, obesity, smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise are other major risk factors for developing high cholesterol. This fatty substance in the blood can block arteries, so it is important to eat healthily and include lots of micronutrients from fruits, vegetables, and berries in your diet. These can help improve the health of the arterial walls.

Unsaturated fats and foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, and brown rice can also help drop cholesterol levels. However, butter, cakes, biscuits, cream, and cheese can do the opposite and should be avoided if you have high cholesterol.

3. Diabetes prevention

Diabetes is a major heart disease risk factor. Although type 2 diabetes can run in families, the main cause of developing it is diet and lifestyle related. Consuming too many carbs, such as white rice, white bread, and other high glycemic index foods, raises blood sugar levels quickly. The body responds by producing insulin from the pancreas to lower sugar levels. This cycle can eventually lead to diabetes.

The best carbs come from complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats, and green leafy vegetables, which raise blood sugar levels slower with less insulin needed to lower blood sugars.

Being overweight and inactive can also increase the chances of becoming diabetic, but walking daily for an hour can decrease your diabetes risk. 

4. Don’t smoke

Smoking cigars and cigarettes are damaging to the heart and lungs. They also increase your risk of developing heart disease and cancer. In addition, chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart muscle itself and the blood vessels that help circulate blood around the body.

Smoking also reduces the oxygen levels in the blood, making the heart muscle work faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the body.

5. Manage stress levels

Stress is part of everyday modern life, and some people manage stress better than others. However, a constant state of stress can be damaging to health because it can lead to high blood pressure. Yoga, meditation, and certain other therapies can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

6. Get plenty of sleep

Everybody needs at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night, but very few achieve this target because of poor sleeping patterns. Sleep is vital because it helps to rest the mind and the body. It is also important for the immune system and the heart muscle itself. The heart relaxes during sleep, and blood pressure can also ease, relieving any arterial tension. This helps to improve circulation and oxygen levels in the blood.

7. Regular health checks

Regular health screenings of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels can help spot the risk factors that can lead to heart disease. Only then can the lifestyle and diet changes mentioned be implemented by individuals to help prevent heart disease from developing and leading to premature death.

Editors' Recommendations

Christine VanDoren
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her…
Tai chi for beginners: 7 reasons you need to add it to your daily routine
Ever watched people do tai chi in the park and wondered what it's all about? We have the answers you want
A man in a green shirt and gray shorts meditating on a yoga mat in the living room.

Exercise is an integral part of wellness, positively affecting physical, mental, and emotional health and balance. Yet sometimes, we notice that traditional exercises, like bike riding, jumping rope, or climbing stairs, may not be the most effective choices. Occasionally, we just need to try something new, and the answer to our problems could be tai chi. It may sound unfamiliar or even unachievable, but have no fear! All it takes is an open mind to learn about something new and give it a try.

We know you may be skeptical, but we'll give you a nice and easy introduction to tai chi and its benefits. This can be a helpful guide for creative new ways to fit stretching and exercise into your everyday activities, no matter how hectic your schedule. This could be as simple as stretching in your office while taking a 10-minute break or setting aside an hour of solitude for a more extensive workout. We're here to help if you're unsure where to start. It may seem challenging to try something new, but really, it’s as easy as breathing and stretching. 

Read more
5 ways healthy fats can help save your life (and what you should be eating)
Foods that are high in fats aren't necessarily bad for yo
A pitcher of avocado oil beside a sliced avocado on a wooden board.

Healthy eating is not only about getting the right vitamins, minerals, and fiber; it is also about eating the right types of fats. Unfortunately, the subject of healthy fats can be confusing because there are many different kinds of fats in various foods we eat in our daily diets.

We need certain amounts of these different fats for our bodies to function correctly. The trick is to balance these out so that we are getting more beneficial fats, such as omega 3 fatty acids, and less of the more harmful ones, such as saturated fats.
What makes a fat healthy?

Read more
Pickleball injuries are on the rise: 5 preventive tips to keep you on the court
Wounds from the surging sport are rising
Pickleball players.

Pickleball is America’s favorite emerging recreational sport at the moment. The game that was first developed on Washington’s Bainbridge Island in 1965 is taking the country by storm for its ease of access, fun, quick action, and social attraction.

What’s lost in the hype, however, is that the sport is leading to numerous injuries. An analysis of pickleball-related injuries using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found the annual estimated number of injuries rising precipitously from 2013 to 2017.

Read more